The last time I wrote this column, I declared whiskey the drink of summer and had some harsh words for those who choose clear liquor drinks to cool down in the blistering Texas heat. Then I went to Kentucky, where I spent a week visiting some of the country’s best-known bourbon distilleries and tasting fine whiskey along the way. After experiencing bourbon overload, it didn’t take long for my mind to wander back to Texas and fantasize about how great it would feel to go home and get my hands on our de facto state beverage, the margarita. I guess we always want what we can’t have.
On my way back to the Fort, I thought about some of best ’ritas on offer in the city, and upon my return I sought the help of a local margarita connoisseur, Josie Singleton, to help me break my margarita drought in the best way. Singleton has run the Eat This Fort Worth blog for more than 10 years and recently started a taco and margarita food tour that takes visitors and locals alike on a culinary journey to some of the best-known taco joints in town, along with a few off-the-beaten-path locales. It’s been a hit, so she recently partnered with Visit Fort Worth, the city’s tourism arm, and will offer different themed food tours planned for the fall. We chatted about our favorite places to grab a classic ’rita around town, the merits of salting the rim (she prefers locally made Halo del Santo sour chile rim salt if it’s available; otherwise, no salt), and whether on the rocks or frozen is better.
Singleton said she prefers classic margaritas on the rocks and flavored ones frozen, and I tend to agree, with some notable exceptions. Salsa Limón (multiple locations) serves a strawberry margarita on the rocks that is one of the best you’ll find anywhere. The fresh strawberry flavor shines through without over-sweetening the drink. Interestingly, the Fort Worth-based mini-chain tops all of its non-frozen margaritas with a splash of club soda, an unconventional move that mellows out all of the flavors, creating a truly refreshing margarita/agua fresca hybrid that is served with plenty of ice and disappears quickly, in my experience. Salsa Limón’s seasonal offering, the Mandarita, is similarly controversial but no less tasty: a classically prepared marg topped with a splash of Jarritos mandarin orange soda. It tastes like you’re drinking a regular margarita while sucking on a lollipop.
Flavored margs aside, I was happy to hear that Salsa Limón is one of Singleton’s top choices as well. The casual taco joint’s “nicely balanced margarita has just the right mix of citrus and sweet,” she said. “It’s an anchor of the tour.”
Taco Heads (1812 Montgomery St, 817-615-9899) serves up another one of her favorites, the boastful Best in Texas margarita, which features silver tequila, orange liqueur, and fresh-pressed limejuice. “It goes down easy,” she said.
Both Singleton and I had a couple of favorite margaritas served by establishments not necessarily known for their Mexican fare. She prefers the Armenta’s Margarita at The Tavern (2755 S Hulen St, 817-923-6200). “It’s on the slightly sweeter side, but it’s the only drink I order there,” she said.
I, however, maintain that West Magnolia mainstay Shaw’s Patio Bar & Grill (1051 W Magnolia Av, 817-926-2116) makes a near-perfect no-fuss marg, served in a pint glass. My devotion to them is aided by the fact that they cost only $5 all day on Saturdays.
If you’ve lived in Fort Worth more than 30 seconds, you already know that venerable Northside eatery Joe T Garcia’s (2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356) has earned its decades-old reputation as the margarita to beat in this town. It’s true, a lazy afternoon on the tropical expanse of the lush patio is heavenly, but I would argue that a lot of the mystique surrounding the margs at Joe T’s has more to do with the scenery than the drink itself. The expert’s opinion? “The margs are strong!,” Singleton said. “That’s all I have to say.” ’Nuff said.
If the Taco and Margarita Tour sounds like it could be up your alley, purchase your tickets at Eatthisfortworth.com. The next taco tour runs Sat, Aug 31, and I’ll see you there.